Saturday, March 2, 2013

Yinlong: Prehistoric Animal of the Week

Yinlong is a small ceratipsian dinosaur that lived in what is now China during the late Jurassic period 160 million years ago.  It was discovered fairly recently in mid 2000s and an adult measures about nine feet from head to tail.  The name Yinlong translates to "Hidden Dragon" in Chinese ("long" is like "saurus" for Chinese dinosaur names).  If you were wondering, yes, it is named in reference to the movie Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon because the area in which Yinlong was unearthed, called Xinjiang Province, is also where much of the movie was filmed.  I may need to do a part two to my extreme dinosaur names post. Yinlong is a well studied dinosaur because multiple specimens, including some full skeletons, have been found.

Yinlong downsi hunkering down with its babies.  Reconstruction by Christopher DiPiazza.
Probably the most interesting thing about Yinlong is the fact that it is the oldest ceratopsian known to science (for now) and is likely the ancestor of more popular ceratopsid dinosaurs like Triceratops, Styracosaurus and Chasmosaurus.   It is also the only ceratopsian known that lived during the Jurassic period.  All others are from the later Cretaceous period.

Yinlong downsi skull.  See the beak?

Unlike its later relatives, Yinlong was not an obligate quadruped, and could walk on its hind legs because its skull wasn't so large in proportion to the rest of its body (later ceratopsids have huge heads).  Like its relatives, however, it still possesses a curved beak on the tip of its mouth called a rostral bone, a feature only found in ceratopsian dinosaurs.

That's all for this week!  As always message in the comments below or comment on our facebook page if you would like to request an animal to be reviewed!


Xu, X., Forster, C.A., Clark, J.M., and Mo, J. (2006). "A basal ceratopsian with transitional features from the Late Jurassic of northwestern China." Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 273(1598): 2135-2140. doi:10.1098/rspb.2006.3566

You H., Xu X. & Wang X. 2003. "A new genus of Psittacosauridae (Dinosauria: Ornithopoda) and the origin and early evolution of marginocephalian dinosaurs." Acta Geologica Sinica (English edition) 77: 15–20

Zhao X., Cheng Z., & Xu X. 1999. "The earliest ceratopsian from the Tuchengzi Formation of Liaoning, China." Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 19(4): 681-691.

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